(SPOILERS AHEAD for Stranger Things 2, up to and including episode 2)
Oh Hawkins, how we’ve missed you. The first season of Netflix’s Stranger Things ticked so many boxes it’s hard to imagine anyone wasn’t enjoying it: it’s storytelling was second to none, it’s characters as compelling as they come, and more nostalgia than you could shake. Steven Spielberg at (as a bonus, it’s also the most brilliant acting of Winona Ryder’s entire career).
Anticipation for a second installment has been building since the first of the binge sessions ended, and at long last the Duffer Brothers have provided; all nine episodes of Stranger Things 2 arrived on Netflix on October 27. A lot of questions were left hanging in the air after the original series; is there something inside of Will? What exactly happened to Eleven? Why on Earth did Nancy decide to get back together with Steve?
Rather than provide instant satisfaction on these tidbits, the first couple of episodes ruminate on them, adding only a few new elements to the equation. For one, Eleven is totally alive, and living with Sheriff Hopper in the woods that she’s back is no surprise, but that Hopper is the one looking out for her is an adorable addition. Their relationship is a little uneasy (Hopper’s always late home, by the sounds of it), but they have a compelling dynamic. For obvious, government-y reasons, no one knows she’s there, which is pretty upsetting for Mike, who tries to get hold of her on his walkie-talkie every night.
His El-related hangups start causing tension amongst the group, after the group encounters Max, a young girl with a troubling older sibling, who’s transferred to Hawkins from California, and the proud owner of the high score on Dig Dug. Watching Dustin and Lucas fawn over her is hilarious, and her jerkwad older relative and backstory are just the right amount of mysterious; is one of them like Eleven? Do they have anything to do with the woman who is a lot like Eleven from the opening scene of the film? Or perhaps to Will’s continuing episodes in the Upside Down?
Only time will tell, but for the first couple of episodes at least, Stranger Things is taking its time, and I’m all for it. It gives the show the chance to let its brilliant character drama breathe; the little rifts between the main children, Will’s mother’s understandable overprotectiveness, and the not-quite-working nature of Nancy and Steve’s relationship all make great fodder in these early episodes, and with the advent of whatever Dustin found in that trashcan, it looks like the things are going to get a whole lot stranger.